To what extent do suppliers act as consultants to event organisers? To what extent is this role compensated? David Tunnicliffe, commercial director of GL Events, discusses.


Sales is a consultative process and should always be treated as such. However, our research within the industry often points to buyer/supplier discussion being more transactional. In a way, this is good, it’s built on mutual trust and honesty: you know what you want, you trust me to deliver it, let’s get down to logistics and price.

However, this isn’t always the case and a more transactional relationship allows little space for progress or innovation by either party. On many occasions, the event will have changed, expanded, or relocated; on the supplier’s side, new products and services are introduced. But we’re so used to each other’s company that we’re not making the time for these conversations.

When it comes to new relationships, our industry can also be guilty of assuming the event organiser has all the answers. On many occasions, our experience and knowledge could be incredibly important to clients, not just in terms of structures; but also on a wider operational level. We have in-house experts and experience on health and safety, building regulations, staging, styling and event infrastructure. With a small festival, event organisers’ expertise may be limited to music, culture or food; meaning we can offer a great deal of support in the operational creation of the event.

So, when it comes to compensation for consultancy, I don’t think this should be an issue. In the events industry, the whole supply chain is reliant on the long-term success of the event and benefits from making this happen. It’s also a way of differentiating ourselves. The level of our experience and insight can be really crucial in winning business and in shaping working relationships.

I recently took part in a panel discussion at the NOEA Congress and, listening to young event organisers speaking, it dawned on me how – beyond obtaining funding – the spending of money and the choosing of suppliers can be so daunting. If these people can establish a long-term partnership with their supply chain from the outset, one that is invested in the future of their event, the relationship will work so much better for everyone.